As my pastor back home, Brother Ron, is wont to say, "You have not, because you ask not." His saying is a paraphrase of scripture. I have never really asked him, but I know he gathers his pearls of wisdom from God's word. So, it could be a direct paraphrase of the second part of James 4:2, or maybe even a summary of Matthew 7:7-11 (Extra, Extra, Read all about it Here). But, no matter, his saying has been particularly meaningful to me these last few weeks.
It has been almost a month since I have attended the Chinese church. The last time I went was on September18th. The next week the two students who had been going with me were busy. And the following week was the beginning of the the week-long celebration of the Chinese National Day which was from Oct 1st -8th and most of the students had left to go to their hometowns. I was becoming somewhat discouraged that I could not find someone to go with me on a regular basis and the words of my pastor had come to mind. ( I struggle with whether to just go by myself, but not knowing the language and having someone to discuss it with makes its difficult for me to be motivated. However, I do have a songbook that I can sing the hymns with, so maybe I will just go by myself when I cannot find a student to go)
To get back to how my pastor's encouragements have meaning, I had been asking the Lord to prepare an opportunity to find someone to go to church with me. I then thought about a student at the school who had invited me to be a judge at some English dramas last year. I had run into her this year and she told me she is preparing to take an English interpretation exam and wanted to know some ways to improve her English. It then dawned on me to invite her to church and ask her to take notes about what the pastor had said, and then she could explain it to me in English. I asked her to think about it while she was away on the holiday. I then sent an email to my ministry partners asking them to pray about this. The Lord has answered, but in His way! The student has not yet responded to my invitation.
However, the Lord has answered prayer in His way! I had invited a former student to come with us last year, but the hour to awake on Sunday was to early for her. Well, guess what? Last Friday, the 14th, I received a text message from this student asking me if I still go to the church on Sunday. I told her I did when I could find someone to go with me. She replied that she wanted to go, and indicated she would like to go regularly! I told her that was great and that she could meet me at the bus stop at 7:00 a.m. and she said ok.
In the meantime, I had asked the two previous regulars if they were free. One has a tutoring job, but the other said she was free and wanted to come along. I let the other student know this. She almost backed out of going. She said she wanted "just us two" to go. (I think she lacks self confidence around others). I explained to her that God means for me to share Him with everyone, and that I could not ask one to go and not ask another. She told me she would think about it and let me know on Saturday. I did not want to leave this to chance so, I prayed and asked God to send the Holy Spirit to let her know that God was calling her to Him. I also prayed and asked how I should intervene, if at all. God gave me the word to send her a message and I told her that we usually have lunch and chat afterward and that He would be very happy if she would come along with us. She said yes!
Sunday was a good day! As is customary, before the preaching, there is the reading of the Word and this weeks reading was chapters 8 and 9 from Mark. (<--Click That to Read) That was a great read! Reading of the miracles of feeding 4000, the healing of the blind man, and the casting out of a terrible spirit. And all of this topped off with a clear message of who Jesus is (Peter's declaration, and the Transfiguration, and Jesus' teaching) and what He has done for us. Awesome stuff for anyone, let alone a first time attendee to hear!
After that, the normal order of service proceeded and we practiced the songs for the day. You can click them and sing along: Wonderful Words of Life Jesus, Lover of My Soul and What A Friend We Have in Jesus
Then we read Psalm 32 (I really like how the church has a Psalm reading before the start of every service). They just seem to set the mood for a great time of worship.
If you have been clicking the links, you can see that my two students, and the rest of the church really received a gospel lesson before the pastor even began to speak! Just this alone confirms that I am going where God wants me to go. I don't say that to boast, but to compare the criticism of and condemnation of all "official" churches with what the disciples said about others casting out demons and Jesus' response to them in Mark 9:39-40:But Jesus said, “Do not hinder him, for there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name, and be able soon afterward to speak evil of Me. 40 For he who is not against us is [as]for us.
The pastor then spoke from Genesis 17:8-13. Unfortunately, I did not have to much time to discuss that with them, but I did find out that he also used that passage to relate to how we must make the right choices in life-the people we associate with and so forth. As we walked back to the bus, I took them back in a different way, stopping along the way to by some Xiao Bing, which is small pieces of bread that are baked in a barrel. There are two types, sweet and salty. I bought them the flavor that they liked and we walked back to the bus through the apartment buildings that surround the church. They were curious about how I knew where the bread was and how to get back to the bus from a different way. Ha, ha, I told them sometimes you just have to be willing to get lost sometimes to find your way, and that I have spent a lot of my free time riding my bike around the city to find out where things are.
I was not able to go to lunch with them as two former students from my second year had sent me a message and wanted to visit on Sunday, and I had promised them earlier that when the day came for their visit, I would make them spaghetti. Well, as is seems customary for my students, I was given only one day's notice. But, seeing how I only can seem them occasionally, I did not want to turn them down.
We had a nice dinner of spaghetti, garlic bread, and some vegetables we picked up at the cafeteria and for desert, fried apples! Mmm mmm good! . Of course, I got to pray with them before dinner, thanking God for the good food and the time to spend with them (they are not believers). Remember, try to take advantage of every opportunity, for God has told us that His word will not return empty to Him and will accomplish what he desires. Isaiah 55:11
And, because of what God says in Isaiah, that is the reason for putting this in a blog rather than just an email. Who knows who else will see this and respond to the scripture contained here? God does, and the Word will accomplish what he wants.
So, remember that many of you are partners in this ministry, and even though I am the only one physically here, the power of your prayers cannot be understated. Please pray for God to show me (and you) the opportunities He has prepared for us. Let us be ready "in season, and out of season" to be His faithful servant and to "Preach the Word." 2 Timothy 4:1-4 Thank you for your support and prayers, my prayer is that you will notice how God richly blesses your faithfulness and proclaim it to others. Until the next time...